Adebola Rayo’s story ‘When I was writing my bones’ was published in the fiction section of the Solitude Issue. Saraba’s co-publisher and fiction editor Dami Ajayi posed some questions about the story and her writing process.
Q: Here at Saraba, publishing your piece, ‘When I Was Writing My Bones’, was a major triumph. Staying true to theme has always been our challenge, but your writing was spot-on. It really hammered the nail; it happens to be many things, but fiction is not one of the easiest labels that we can put on it. What were you writing when you were writing ‘When I Was Writing My Bones’?
A: I like journaling, so I didn’t write the piece all at once or in that sequence, or even with the intention of it being a body of work. A few years ago, I realised that I tend to leave a lot of the pieces of my life in my work – I like to think of the works as horcruxes for my soul in that way – so I started to lift pieces from my journals and fictionalise them, sometimes a little, sometimes a whole lot. So, I cannot really say ‘this’ is what I was writing when I was writing ‘When I was writing my bones’ – that’s a really confusing statement but yeah. I was just writing and I found it becoming the huge body of work, so I’m still writing down my bones… thanks Natalie Goldberg.
Q: There is a frantic search, a perpetual pursuit for solitude, and at the core of your writing, a desire to tag your experiences. Are there any therapeutic benefits from writing?
A: Writing has been my coping mechanism since I was about 12 years old; so sometimes I feel as though the universe is putting me through an experience just so I can milk it for art. It’s not a healthy thing, but it’s like an orgasm. You know, all of these built-up emotions and experiences are released in ink to free my head. I’m really not sure how to explain it in a way that makes sense to others. Writing is my solitude. It’s the thing I do to find safety, freedom. On the success of it though, it actually is to some extent, maybe that is not reflected in the excerpt but it is in my reality. I’m not good at translating my happiness and ‘successes’ into words because I can hold them in and be ok. It’s the things that will eat me from the inside that I need to let out…
Q: You referenced the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a deeply unfortunate political event, and how it affected you especially as he was hung on your seventh birthday. How do you give clarity to such distant memories and how does remembering aid you in making connections with today’s realities?
A: I have clear memories from the time I was 2 or 3 years old, I have a good memory for the things that I let into my world. So, Saro-Wiwa’s death was one of those things and remains one of those things that niggle. I find myself drawing on a lot of memories in my writing, but I also find myself trying to consciously avoid or hold myself apart from some of today’s realities because I’m tired. I’m tired of absorbing sorrows and worrying about things more than the average person does. But those connections are in the back of my mind, and sometimes they escape to the fore, then I have to lay them out in sheets to bury them. I hope all of this is making some sense because I often feel like words trip me, like the way they make sense in my head won’t really make sense outside of it. That’s why I didn’t really think anyone would get ‘When I was writing my bones’…
Q: Your piece seemed carved out from a larger spool. Should we expect to read more of this kind of writing and experiences in a book soon? And how soon?
A: I’m working on a book with a really convoluted working title, Waking up Alone: A String of Memories and Distorted Realities. ‘When I Was Writing My Bones’ is an excerpt from it. Each of the sections in that excerpt is actually a little piece from chapters of the book.
I’m a really slow writer, because I obsess over everything and every few months I’m convinced it’s all crap so I hate it and I start rewriting again. I’ve given myself a deadline: November 9, 2018. That’s a day before my 30th birthday. I think that makes sense. If I’m not done by then, I might have to dust up my law degree or move to New York and get a waitressing job or something else that will remind me every day that I wasted my youth. I’m not really sure if I’m kidding about that last part.
Remember to download the Solitude Issue, if you haven’t.